04/30/12- On Saturday April 28, 2012, journalist and correspondent of the Mexican magazine Proceso, Regina Martínez, was found dead in her home in Xalapa, Veracruz. Her body was found in her bathroom, and showed markings of physical abuse and strangulation. In an official statement released by the Attorney General’s Office of Veracruz (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE), there had been signs of “blows to the head and body”, and Martínez is thought to have ultimately died of asphyxiation.
Regina Martínez was the Proceso correspondent and investigative journalist for the region, who had worked for the media organization for ten years. While the Attorney General of Veracruz has not provided any motive for the killing, sources seem to suggest that it was due to her coverage of narcotráfico (drug trafficking) and other areas organized crime and violence. Data gathered by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) supports this assumption, as 78% of all journalists killed in Mexico in the past two decades had covered stories relating to crime.
However, when CPJ data is cross-examined with data gathered by the Trans-Border Institute (TBI)–which pulls from Grupo Reforma’s running weekly tally of drug-related homicides (ejecuciones)–, an interesting dimension comes to light. According to CPJ data, the four states in which the highest number of journalists were killed from 2006 to 2011 are Guerrero (with 7 killings), Veracruz (6), Michoacán (5), and Chihuahua (5). When compared to TBI’s data of ejecuciones, it becomes clear that the state of Veracruz has experienced significantly less violence when compared to the other three states. While states like Chihuahua, in 2008, and Guerrero, in 2011, have experienced annual levels of drug-related homicides reaching 3,304 and 1,536, respectively, Veracruz’s highest yearly total between 2006 and 2011 was 350, which it recorded last year. While this number is indeed significant, not just because it demonstrates a large increase in the amount of violence occurring in Veracruz, which averaged 54 ejecuciones per year from 2006 to 2010, it is, however, dramatically less than the amount of homicides being experienced by these other states with high levels of violence against journalists.
One might expect that being a journalist in states with higher homicide rates between 2006 and 2011 would be more dangerous than in states with lower numbers. The reality is, however, that the number of journalists killed in Veracruz is about the same as Chihuahua, even though the homicide rates in both states are significantly different. Additionally, states like Baja California, which saw a significant increase in violence between 2006 and 2010, have not seen increases in journalist homicides, according to CPJ data. This information makes the claim that Martínez was killed because she lived in a “volatile drug trafficking area” seem questionable, given that Veracruz is less volatile than other regions with comparative rates of violence against journalists.
While the Attorney General has reportedly chosen to examine the case until “all lines of investigation [are] exhausted”, the Los Angeles Times indicates that there is already a long list of unsolved murders of journalists in Mexico. Efforts to protect journalists throughout Mexico have largely been ineffective. Despite congressional efforts last month that passed legislation making it a federal offense to commit a crime against a journalist (click here for more information on the new law), critics argue that the roots of the problem are not being addressed: high levels of impunity remain, and perpetrators of violence and crime are not brought to justice.